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The Odd Truth, April 14, 2004

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum.

Campground 'Swinger' Jailed

CAMP VERDE, Ariz. - A 60-year-old Arizona man is facing indecent exposure charges after doing some "swinging" of sorts at a campground.

Sheriff's deputies were called after picnickers and the Beaver Creek Campground host reported that Ronald Peterson was swinging naked across the creek on a rope.

The Yavapai County Sheriff's office says the man told a deputy that he hadn't intended to offend anyone and hadn't seen the picnickers.

He was booked into the county jail.

John Kerry, Young Republican?

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - John Kerry, Young Republican? Or was it a joke on the Democratic candidate for president made nearly 40 years ago?

Among the many activities listed under Kerry's photo in the Yale University yearbook of 1966 is membership in Yale Young Republicans. Both the Kerry campaign and the club's president at the time think the listing is a mistake, if not a prank.

"My bet is it's a joke, because John was very careful about what he did and didn't do," says Renny Scott, the president of the Yale Republicans that year. "Everything was with a mind to the future."

Kerry's college roommate, Dan Barbiero, also doubts the yearbook's accuracy. "I can't imagine that," Barbiero says.

Kerry earned a degree in political science at Yale in 1966. He was the head of the Yale Political Union, a college debating club, and led the Liberal Party, one of several political parties in the union that hosted events and debated issues.

Kerry also was the treasurer of the Yale Young Democrats in 1962-63. It was an overwhelmingly Democratic campus in the 1960s, and the Republican club was all but defunct - until it signed up nearly half of the freshman class in 1965 with an offer to hear speakers, drink free beer and meet girls brought to the all-male campus as part of a $3 membership.

One bona fide Republican was not a member of Yale Young Republicans either: George W. Bush. A history major who graduated in 1968, Bush decided not the join the club, Scott recalls.

"He was in with the fraternity crowd," Scott says. "He was not interested in politics at that stage of his life."

Toilet-Trained Cat Debuts On TV

TAIPEI, Taiwan - When one Taiwanese cat feels the call of nature, he heads for his owner's toilet - not the stinky, unsophisticated litter box.

The white and tan kitty named "Tiger" showed off his skills on Taiwanese television on Wednesday, skillfully hopping onto the front end of the toilet seat and carefully balancing himself as he did his business.

Tiger's owner, Dong Hsiu-yuan, told reporters in her central Taiwan home that the former stray cat taught himself to use a human toilet - by imitation.

"He would watch me from the bathroom doorway. If I closed the door, then he would meow loudly," she told SCT cable news.

"Last week, I saw him jump on the toilet. I didn't know what he was doing and then I noticed he was urinating," she told CTI cable news.

Tiger still hasn't mastered the art of flushing.

Smoking Declared A Basic Human Right

OSLO, Norway - A Norwegian county has declared smoking to be a basic human right in a dispute over a ban imposed on one town's workers.

Levanger, a township of about 18,000 people in central Norway, banned all smoking by municipal employees during working hours on or off city property at the beginning of the year.

The ruling, which made national news Wednesday, came after three opponents of the rule, all local council members from the right-wing Party of Progress, asked the county governor's office to assess the ban's legality.

In a letter to the city dated Tuesday, the county declared the ban invalid because it violates the European Human Rights Convention.

It said the city can ban smoking on its property, but not, for example, if a worker was driving their own car or on private property.

The county cited a section of the convention that protects citizens' private lives.

The letter said "a total ban on smoking during working hours is a measure that is not reasonable in relation to the goal of the ban."

Birger Meinhardt and Steinar Holten, two of the politicians who lodged the complaint, celebrated the ruling on the steps of the Levanger town hall by lighting up the biggest cigars they could find.

"Just like before Jan. 1, 2004," Holten told the Troender-Avisa newspaper as he puffed on the cigar.

World's Oldest Worker Finally Calls It Quits

GRANTHAM, Pa. - A man billed as the world's oldest worker is calling it quits.

Ray Crist, a retired scientist who started teaching at Messiah College near Harrisburg in 1970, put down his pointer Tuesday at age 104.

Crist, though, has no plans to rest on his laurels.

Instead, he'll keep up with his research and academic papers, the latest of which sets out to explain how plants absorb toxic metals and thereby clean the soil.

"When you have a mission, you go after it," said Crist, who worked on the Manhattan Project. "And I am still going after it."

Two years ago, at age 102, Crist was named America's oldest worker by a nonprofit training group called Experience Works.

He started at Messiah at age 70, after a career in science and a decade teaching at Dickinson University. In his 34 years at Messiah, he took only a token salary of $1 a year.

"Last year when I had classes in his building, I would walk by and see him in his office," said sophomore Kinsey Rice. "He would be in there, hunched over at the desk, working. It was kind of like motivation."

Crist was born in central Pennsylvania, just a few miles from the land where Messiah would be built. His grandfather was a Union soldier in the Civil War, and his father a farmer and auctioneer.

Crist got used to hard work early, feeding hogs every morning as a boy.

In 1926, he earned a doctorate in chemistry from Columbia University. In 1945, he was a director with the Manhattan Project, the secret U.S. effort to develop an atomic bomb. He later worked at Union Carbide Corp.

Crist, who lives in Carlisle, lost his wife in 1961. His son, Henry Crist, is a pathologist at Carlisle Regional Medical Center.

Little Guy Wins In Wiener War

ALLIANCE, Ohio - An entrepreneur has won his wiener war with city hall.

A judge granted Walton "Wally" Armour permission to erect a 30-foot replica of a hot dog atop his new restaurant.

City officials had tried to halt the plans, saying it would lead to more and could make the city look like the Las Vegas strip.

The Alliance Board of Zoning Appeals granted Armour a variance allowing him to skirt an ordinance against rooftop advertising. Law Director Andrew Zumbar argued that the ordinance shouldn't be bypassed, but the judge said the city could not challenge its appeals board.

Zumbar said it would be up to the city council whether to appeal Sinclair's ruling.